Chicago Pete
Blues Recording Artist

Memorial
Originally appeared in the TBS Maple Blues Magazine, March 2001
by Chris Murphy

Chicago Pete, Alford Harrell, passed away following hospitalization in Detroit with fluid in the lungs. Montreal blues correspondent Brian Slack was one promoter left with an indelible impression: "…he was truly the gentleman of the blues. He always went out of his way to make sure everybody was happy, signed every autograph and gave of his time without hesitation. One of my fondest memories was having a limousine bring Chicago Pete to the outdoor stage in Victoriaville this past summer, splitting the crowd, a royal treatment that he rightly deserved... it was a blues friendship that I will never forget". In Southwestern Ontario Pete played mostly with Chris Murphy, who sent the following tribute:

Chicago Pete had a lot of friends in Canada and performed regularly in Ontario and Quebec, usually with Canadian musicians. He will be fondly remembered for his huge voice, his smile and his wardrobe. Pete was always the best dressed guy in the room. He wore these great suits often red or white with matching hats and boots.

His smile was contagious and he loved to make the people around him happy. He had a genuine love of people and always made time for his fans. I was lucky enough to have performed with him about 150 times over a period of 4 or 5 years. He was fun to work with and he enjoyed sharing his insight into the true meaning of the blues. The highpoint of his show was often the slow blues tunes where he would walk into the crowd and preach the blues without the aid of a microphone. When the audience was really quiet he would almost whisper one of his favorite lines, "You know the Blues Doesn't have to be loud it just has to be Good".

Pete knew hundreds of songs and he liked to play really long sets. Often the last set was 70 minutes followed by a 30 minute encore. He loved coming to Canada especially playing the festivals in Quebec and the matinee at Poor Folks Deli. Sometimes Pete talked like a beatnik. He had these hip little phrases he liked to use. When people asked him for a definition of the blues he would always respond with "Blues is the Truth". If someone asked him a question a typical answer might be "kool" or "melody". When you asked Pete how he was doing you could count on him responding with "Ain't Nothing Going on but the Rent". When he wanted a musician to play a solo he would often say "Get Yourself Some".

Pete was very fond of the musicians he worked with in Canada especially Shawn Kellerman with whom he had a very close bond. His real name was Alford Harrel, he lived in Detroit and he was a devoted family man. He was a good friend and he taught me a lot of things. I will miss him dearly.

The funeral for Chicago Pete was held in Detroit at the Liberty Temple Baptist Church on Wednesday Feb 14. Cards and condolences may be sent to Pete's wife, Valeria Harrell, 5575 Oregon, Detroit MI 48204, U.S.A.

 


   
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